Cucurbita pepo is a species of squash (family Cucurbitaceae, the gourd or cucumber family) endemic to the New World that includes many common kitchen squash varieties including acorn squash, pumpkin, zucchini, and pattypans (see types listed below). Archeological evidence shows it to be one of the world’s earliest domesticated species, first cultivated between 8000-10,000 years ago in Mesoamerica, probably southern Mexico (Smith 1997; Decker 1988). Many molecular studies have investigated the controversial origin of C. pepo and relationship to its two closest relatives, C. fraternal and C. texana (Sanjur et al. 2002; Decker-Walters et al. 2003).
A broad diversity of inter-fertile C. pepo varieties and subspecies resulted from this 10,000 year cultivation period, producing fruits with such a vast array of different forms, colors and textures that the types are often misidentified as distinct species. These fruits include summer squashes (e.g. zucchini and pattypan), which are eaten as immature fruits with tender skin and soft seeds and winter squashes (e.g.pumpkins and acorn squash) harvested in the fall as mature fruits with tough skin and hardened seeds which are usually removed prior to eating the fruit’s flesh. There are also several varieties of inedible gourds exhibiting terrific range in shape, colors, texture and size. Based primarily on fruit shape, Paris (1986) proposed a list of eight basic edible groups and one group of inedible gourds, into which almost all varieties of C. pepo can be classified (listed below; Wikipedia 2013).
Cucurbita pepo grows as a large annual vine, historically in areas from sea level up to 2000 m. (6500 ft.) in altitude. It has large, showy, yellow-orange, insect-pollinated flowers and round, lobed leaves, often with fine hairy prickles. Like all species in the family, it is frost-sensitive. Various parts of C. pepo plants are edible including the fruit, flowers, young leaves and seeds, and it is an agricultural species of great importance, cultivated around the world. Seeds, leaves, sap and pulp have long been used for medicinal purposes including treatment of intestinal worms, urinary issues, and poultices for burns. The vines and fruit are used as fodder for livestock, and gourds used for a vast array of ornamental, traditional and functional purposes (Kew 2013; Saade and Montes Hernandez 1994; Wikipedia 2013).
Summer squash Cucurbita pepo cultivars include:
•crookneck (var. torticollia),
•straightneck (var. recticollis),
•scallop (var. clypeata),
•zucchini (var. cylindrica),
•cocozzelle (var. longa),
•vegetable marrow (var. fastigata; some forms of this variety, such as spaghetti squash, are winter squashes)
Winter squash Cucurbita pepo cultivars include:
•pumpkin (var. pepo),
•acorn squash (var. turbinata)
C. pepo var. ovifera (egg-shaped, pear-shaped),
C. pepo var. aurantia (orange color),
C. pepo var. verrucosa (round warty gourds),
C. pepo var. texana ornamental gourds found in Texas (sometimes considered a distinct species, C. texana, this form is possibly the ancestor of C. pepo, although the genetics are complicated and debated),
C. pepo var. ozarkana ornamental gourds found outside of Texas (Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana)
- Decker, D.S. 1988. Origin(s), Evolution, and Systematics of Cucurbita pepo (Cucurbitaceae). Economic Botany 42(1): 4-15.
- Decker-Walters, D. S.; Staub, J. E.; Chung, S.-M.; Nakata, E.; Quemada, H. D. (2002). "Diversity in Free-Living Populations of Cucurbita pepo (Cucurbitaceae) as Assessed by Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA". Systematic Botany (American Society of Plant Taxonomists) 27 (1): 19–28. doi:10.2307.2F3093892.
- Kew Royal Botanic Gardens 2013. Cucurbita pepo species profile. Retrieved October 15, 2013 from http://www.kew.org/plants-fungi/Cucurbita-pepo.htm.
- Paris, Harry S. (1986). "A Proposed Subspecific Classification for Cucurbita pepo". Phytologia (Bronx Park) 61 (3): 133–138.
- Sanjur, Oris I.; Piperno, Dolores R.; Andres, Thomas C.; Wessel-Beaver, Linda (2002). "Phylogenetic Relationships among Domesticated and Wild Species of Cucurbita (Cucurbitaceae) Inferred from a Mitochondrial Gene: Implications for Crop Plant Evolution and Areas of Origin" (PDF). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences) 99 (1): 535–540. JSTOR 3057572.
- Smith, B.D. Science 9 May 1997: The Initial Domestication of Cucurbita pepo in the Americas 10,000 Years Ago. Vol. 276 no. 5314 pp. 932-934. DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5314.932
- Saade, L.R. and Montes Hernandez, S. Cucurbites (Cucurbita spp). 1994. In: Hernandez Bermejo, J.E. and Leon, J. (eds). Neglected Crops: 1492 from a different perspecitive. FAO Plant production and protection Series no. 26. Retrieved October 15, 2013 from http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/t0646e/t0646e.pdf
- Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 10 October, 2013. Cucurbita pepo. Retrieved October 15, 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cucurbita_pepo&oldid=576647824
Cucurbita pepo, which encompasses summer squashes including zucchini, yellow crookneck, pattypan, and spaghetti, as well as some types of winter squash and pumpkin (Delicata squash, autumn pumpkin), is a frost-intolerant annual plant in the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae). Native to Mexico and North America, it is now widely cultivated in warm areas worldwide as a food and animal fodder.
C. pepo is one of the oldest known cultivated species, with Mexican archaeological evidence from 7,000 B.C. It is present in numerous sites in the southwestern and eastern U.S., dating from 800 B.C. to 1256 A.D. Thus, it was widely cultivated by indigenous peoples throughout Mexico, Central, and North America before the arrival of Europeans. It is now considered to have been domesticated in two separate episodes: in eastern North America, from C. texana; and in Mexico, from C. fraterna—with the two types interfertile, and giving rise to diverse varieties, sometimes divided into several subspecies.
Related species include C. maxima, C. mixta, and C. moschata, which include various cultivars known as winter squash and pumpkins. Some C. pepo cultivars are also called winter squash and pumpkins, so it can be difficult to ascertain which cultivars are derived from which species. In general, C. pepo fruits have a thin, edible rind, whereas other species have thick, leathery or hard, inedible rinds.
C. pepo is a non-trailing bush (in contrast to the vining habit of most cucurbits), upright and spreading, 45–75 cm (18–30 in) high. Fruits come in diverse forms, from oblong or elongate to flattened; some varieties have a crook neck. The fruit surface may be smooth, scalloped, ridged, or warty. Colors vary from white to cream to yellow to green; some are variegated or striped. Fruits develop rapidly after flowering, and must be harvested within just a few days, or the seeds and rinds will harden and flesh will become fibrous.
C. pepo fruits are eaten fresh in salads, boiled, baked, fried, or mashed and eaten as a vegetable, cooked in soups, or baked in pies and breads. Blossoms are edible, and may be breaded or battered and fried as fritters; a famous Italian dish, fiore di zucca, uses zucchini flowers. The fruits are low in calories but high in fiber. Seeds are high in protein, oil, and minerals (they contain 30% protein and 40–50% oil), and are eaten raw, toasted, or pressed to make oil.
In South and Central America, C. pepo has numerous traditional medicinal uses: seeds are toasted and eaten to kill intestinal parasites; fruits are used as a diuretic and anti-diabetic; and a preparation of the flowers has been used to treat jaundice, measles, and smallpox. Pumpkin seeds are sometimes used as a natural worming agent for sheep and goats by organic farmers, but their efficacy has not been clearly demonstrated.
World production of pumpkins, squashes, and gourds (across all species of Cucurbitaceae) was 22.1 million tons harvested from 1.7 million hectares in 2009, valued at $5.2 billion U.S. dollars. Leading producers were China, Russia, India, the U.S., and Egypt.
(Decker-Walters 1990, ECPGR 2008, Encyclopedia Britannica 1993, FAOSTAT 2011, NRC 1989, Schoenian 2011, Schultes 1990, Waynesword.com 2011, Whittaker and Davis 1962)
- Decker-Walters, D.S. 1990. “Evidence for multiple domestications of Cucurbita pepo.” In Bates, D.M., R.W. Robinson, and C. Jeffrey, eds. Biology and Utilization of the Cucurbitaceae. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Pp. 96–101.
- ECPGR. 2008. ￼Minimum descriptors for Cucurbita spp., cucumber, melon and watermelon. European Cooperative Programme for Plant Genetic Resources (ECPGR), Working Group on Cucurbits. Accessed 28 November 2011 from http://www.ecpgr.cgiar.org/fileadmin/www.ecpgr.cgiar.org/NW_and_WG_UPLOADS/Cucurbits_DescriptorLists.pdf.
- Encyclopedia Britannica. 1993. “Squash.” Micropedia Vol. 11: 185. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.
- FAOSTAT. 2011. FAOSTAT 2011. Searchable online database from Food and Agriculture Division of the United Nations. Retrieved 20 November 2011 from http://faostat.fao.org/site/567/default.aspx#ancor.
- Schoenian, S. 2011. Small ruminant information sheet: Marketing claims for sheep and goats. University of Maryland Extension Service. Accessed 22 November 2011 from http://www.sheepandgoat.com/articles/marketingclaims.html.
- Schultes, R.E. 1990. “Biodynamic cucurbits in the New World tropics.” In Bates, D.M., R.W. Robinson, and C. Jeffrey, eds. Biology and Utilization of the Cucurbitaceae. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Pp. 307–324.
- Waynesword. 2011. The wild and wonderful world of gourds. Wayne’s Word: An online textbook of natural history. Retrieved 28 November 2011 from http://waynesword.palomar.edu/ww0503.htm.
- Whittaker, T.S., and G.N. Davis. 1962. Cucurbits: Botany, Cultivation, and Utilization. 1962. New York: Interscience Publishers. 249 p.
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Cultivated in all warm and temperate parts of the world
State - Kerala, District/s: All Districts"
Cultivated in all warm and temperate parts of the world
State - Kerala, District/s: All Districts"
Localities documented in Tropicos sources
Bolivia (South America)
Canada (North America)
Costa Rica (Mesoamerica)
Ecuador (South America)
Gabon (Africa & Madagascar)
United States (North America)
Colombia (South America)
Venezuela (South America)
Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
- Jørgensen, P. M. & C. Ulloa Ulloa. 1994. Seed plants of the high Andes of Ecuador---A checklist. AAU Rep. 34: 1–443. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/47124
- Lawesson, J. E., H. Adsersen & P. Bentley. 1987. An updated and annotated check list of the vascular plants of the Galapagos Islands. Rep. Bot. Inst. Univ. Aarhus 16: 1–74. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/43197
- Molina Rosito, A. 1975. Enumeración de las plantas de Honduras. Ceiba 19(1): 1–118. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/866
- McVaugh, R. 2001. Ochnaceae to Loasaceae. 3: 9–751. In R. McVaugh Fl. Novo-Galiciana. The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1019947
- ORSTOM. 1988. List Vasc. Pl. Gabon Herbier National du Gabon, Yaounde. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1671
- Wunderlin, R. P. 1978. Flora of Panama, Part IX. Family 182. Cucurbitaceae. Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 65(1): 285–366. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/7256
- Jeffrey, C. & B. Trujillo. 1992. Cucurbitaceae. 5(1): 11–202. In Fl. Venezuela. Fondo Editorial Acta Cientifica Venezolana, Caracas. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1030321
- Lira Saade, R. 2004. Cucurbitaceae de la Peninsula de Yucatán. Etnofl. Yucatanense 22: 1–315. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1030322
- Jeffrey, C. 2001. Cucurbitaceae. En: Stevens, W. D., C. Ulloa, A. Pool & O. M. Montiel (eds.), Flora de Nicaragua. Monogr. Syst. Bot. Missouri Bot. Gard. 85(1): 688–717. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1030433
- McVaugh, R. 2001. Cucurbitaceae. 3: 483–652. In R. McVaugh Fl. Novo-Galiciana. The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1030491
- Correa A., M. D., C. Galdames & M. N. S. Stapf. 2004. Cat. Pl. Vasc. Panamá 1–599. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1031911
- Jørgensen, P. M. & S. León-Yánez. (eds.) 1999. Catalogue of the vascular plants of Ecuador. Monogr. Syst. Bot. Missouri Bot. Gard. 75: i–viii, 1–1181. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/42250
- Breedlove, D. E. 1986. Flora de Chiapas. Listados Floríst. México 4: i–v, 1–246. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/513
- Radford, A. E., H. E. Ahles & C. R. Bell. 1968. Man. Vasc. Fl. Carolinas i–lxi, 1–1183. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/636
- Wiggins, I. L. & D. M. Porter. 1971. Fl. Galápagos Isl. i–xx, 1–998. Stanford University Press, Stanford. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/73
- Flora of China Editorial Committee. 2011. Fl. China 19: 1–884. Science Press & Missouri Botanical Garden Press, Beijing & St. Louis. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/100003187
- González Ramírez, J. & L. J. Poveda Álvarez. 2010. Cucurbitaceae. En: Manual de Plantas de Costa Rica. Vol. 5. B.E. Hammel, M.H. Grayum, C. Herrera & N. Zamora (eds.). Monogr. Syst. Bot. Missouri Bot. Gard. 119: 137–181. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/100003907
- Hokche, O., P. E. Berry & O. Huber. 2008. 1–860. In O. Hokche, P. E. Berry & O. Huber Nuevo Cat. Fl. Vasc. Venezuela. Fundación Instituto Botánico de Venezuela, Caracas. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1033110
- Idárraga-Piedrahita, A., R. D. C. Ortiz, R. Callejas Posada & M. Merello. 2011. Flora de Antioquia. Catálogo de las Plantas Vasculares, vol. 2. Listado de las Plantas Vasculares del Departamento de Antioquia. Pp. 1-939. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/100008595
- D'Arcy, W. G. 1987. Flora of Panama. Checklist and Index. Part 1: The introduction and checklist. Monogr. Syst. Bot. Missouri Bot. Gard. 17: v–xxx, 1–328. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1289
- García-Mendoza, A. J. & J. Meave del Castillo. 2011. Divers. Florist. Oaxaca 1–351. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/100009052
Global Range: This taxon has native and non-native infrataxa in the U.S. It is native in New Mexico (two counties), Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, Texas, and West Virginia. The native range overlaps the non-native range in Kentucky and Louisiana. Also occurs in Canada in Ontario and Quebec, as well as Puerto Rico. (Kartesz 2003 draft)
Flower-Visiting Insects of Summer Squash in Illinois
(Long-tongued bees suck nectar or collect pollen; observations are from Robertson)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn cp fq; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus impatiens sn, Bombus pensylvanica sn cp fq; Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Melissodes bimaculata bimaculata sn, Peponapis pruinosa pruinosa sn cp fq olg, Xenoglossa strenua sn cp fq olg
Agrobacterium tumefaciens causes gall of stem (esp. base) of Cucurbita pepo
In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / spot causer
numerous, crowded, blackish-brown, erumpent then very prominent pycnidium of Ascochyta coelomycetous anamorph of Ascochyta cucumeris causes spots on live epicarp of Cucurbita pepo
Remarks: season: 9-11
Foodplant / pathogen
colony of Cladosporium dematiaceous anamorph of Cladosporium cucumerinum infects and damages live Cucurbita pepo
Other: unusual host/prey
Foodplant / pathogen
pycnidium of Colletotrichum coelomycetous anamorph of Colletotrichum lagenarium infects and damages live fruit of Cucurbita pepo
Other: minor host/prey
Foodplant / spot causer
erumpent pycnidium of Ascochyta coelomycetous anamorph of Didymella bryoniae causes spots on live stem (lower) of Cucurbita pepo
Foodplant / parasite
Golovinomyces orontii parasitises live Cucurbita pepo
Foodplant / spot causer
pycnidium of Phyllosticta coelomycetous anamorph of Phyllosticta cucurbitacearum causes spots on live leaf of Cucurbita pepo
Life History and Behavior
Evolution and Systematics
Plant leaves resist adhesion of water and dirt due to convex geometry on their surface.
"Non-smoothness is a common natural phenomenon in [the] biological world, which has been formed during the long evolutionary process of living creatures as a stable, self-adaptive system. The non-smooth surfaces of plants, resulting from long interaction between self-growing mechanism and external environment, exert several important functions, such as water repellency, anti-adhesion, and self-cleaning." (Ren et al. 2007:33)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- Ren, Lu-quan; Wang, Shu-jie; Tian, Xi-mei; Han, Zhi-wu; Yan, Lin-na; Qiu, Zhao-mei. 2007. Non-Smooth Morphologies of Typical Plant Leaf Surfaces and Their Anti-Adhesion Effects. Journal of Bionic Engineering. 4(1): 33-40.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Cucurbita pepo
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cucurbita pepo
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked
Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: This taxon has native and non-native infrataxa in the U.S. It is native in New Mexico (two counties), Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, Texas, and West Virginia. The native range overlaps the non-native range in Kentucky and Louisiana. Also occurs in Canada in Ontario and Quebec, as well as Puerto Rico. (Kartesz 2003 draft) Scattered in Illinois and occurs in moist soil (Mohlenbrock 1986).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG, Folk medicine
Comments: Similar to the uses of C. moschata. In Mexico, the seeds are given with castor oil as an anthelmintic. The seed oil is applied to persistent ulcers in Venezuela, and a decoction of the flowers has been used to treat measles and small pox. Colombians report that a root infusion is febrifugal and also is applied to syphilitic ulcers. The seeds are said to be excellent vermifuges and taenifuges and the fruits are diuretic. In the Yucatán the fruit is considered to be an antidiabetic. In Curaçao, a decoction of the flowers or fruits is used to treat jaundice. In Brazil, the seeds are active against taenia when given in coconut milk, especially in children.
- Acorn squash
- Delicata squash
- Dodi marrow, grown in South Asia
- Gem squash
- Heart of gold squash
- Pattypan squash
- Some types of Pumpkin
- Spaghetti squash
- Sweet dumpling squash
- Yellow crookneck squash
- Yellow summer squash
Gem squash (Cucurbita pepo) is a variety of summer squash that was domesticated from two wild varieties; Cucurbita texana found in the southern and central United States and Cucurbita fraterna found in Mexico.  The dark green spherical fruit, when fully ripe, is about the size of a softball (slightly larger than a tennis ball). The fruit needs to be boiled in order to render it palatable. The young fruit is often harvested before it is ripe (about golf ball size) due to its having a more delicate flavour and texture.
Gem Squash is commonly available in the following countries:
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